Post-Roman Gwynedd (the Dark Ages)
Following the final withdrawal of the Roman legions from the provinces of Britannia in around 408 AD, kingdoms were left to preserve their own order, leaving tribal chieftains and kings to defend their lands from invading Irish from the West, the Picts from the North, and Anglo-Saxons from the Southeast. Some historians believe it is very unlikely that Rome had any influence in bringing the Votadini tribe to Wales and have suggested that Vortigern, High King of Briton may have instructed Cunedda (from Lothian) to defend Gwynedd, as he did when he invited the Anglo-Saxons leader Hengest to defend eastern England. These were the times when Roman forts and hillforts were re-occupied by local chieftains.
c. AD 411 – 440’s
Gwynedd & Western Britain was overrun by Irish invaders and would probably have been ruled by many tribal chieftains or kings and Roman governors unable to hold onto their lands. Historians have found it difficult to provide any real dates or evidence of any true kingship until the appointment of Cunedda around 442. However, amongst the most important names mentioned are Ambrosius Aurelianus and Vortigern. It is more than probable that both these leaders ruled around the same time. It is unlikely that the Western Britain at this time was under major Anglo-Saxon threat, which would suggest a very strong Irish & Picts threat and probable divide between the remaining Roman ruling powers.
Much is written about this historical figure called Ambrosius Aurelianus being a leader of his day and linking him to the Arthurian legend.
It is possible that there were two men of the same name, Emrys Wledig the elder and Merddyn Wledig Ambrosii, possibly father and son. It is likely that this (elder) Emrys was a son of a Roman and possibly a governor from the southern parts of Briton holding on to his own dynastic succession against the threatening Anglo-Saxons. It is possible that Emrys and Vortigern could have been allies up until around the time when Vortigern invited the Saxons to Kent and Cunedda to North Wales. His possible death against the forces of Vortigern in the battle of Wallop in 439 may have resulted in his fatherless son escaping to the North or taken as a captive to Dinas Emrys by Vortigern. Ancient historian Nennius records that as a boy (son) he was called up to help Vortigern construct a fortress at Dinas Emrys, then in later years given ‘ kingdoms of Western Briton’ after ousting him in battle. It is unlikely that he was ‘given any kingdoms’, although he may have ruled a small part of Snowdonia.
Another theory put forward by historians is that Cunedda was invited to protect Gwynedd by Ambrosius as he had connections based near Hadrian’s Wall.
AD 383-388 – Magnus Clemens Maximus (Macsen Wledig) – The Imperator, Emperor of the West – Based in Segontium during his 2nd marriage to Elen Luyddog ferch Eudaf Hen
He came to Britain in 368 AD to stop the unrest in Roman Britain and regarded by some historians as responsible for giving the Welsh their own provinces and the responsibility of defending themselves against the Irish.
c. AD 383-410 – Antonius Dionatus Gregorius ap Macsen (King Anwn Dynod) aka Demetius King of Western Britain & Demetia (South Wales) – son of Macsen Wledig & Elen Luyddog ferch Eudaf Hen
More than likely a high-ranking Roman governor who was accepted as a ruler of the Demetia (South Wales) and Western Britain. He ruled the South while his brother Custennin ruled the North.
c. AD 411- Saint Peblig ap Macsen (St.Publicus) – son of Macsen Wledig & Elen Luyddog ferch Eudaf Hen
He had no interest in government and renounced his rights to rule, allowing his brother Dionatus to become British Emperor. He entered the ministry, founding the church of Llanbeblig on the outskirts of Caernarfon, where he served as abbot until his death.
c. AD 388-411 – Custennin ap Macsen (Constantine III – Flavius Claudius Constantinus) – son of Macsen Wledig & Elen Luyddog ferch Eudaf Hen
A Roman general declared himself Western Roman Emperor in 407. The family of Macsen continued to control Gwynedd towards the end of the Roman period. He was one of four sons who were given their own territory to govern towards the end of the roman influence in Britain while Macsen was away in Gaul. It is probable that he was also the same Constantine and Roman leader King of the North-West (died in battle against the Picts in 411). His main power base was at Caer-Segont (Segontium), associated with Constantine the Great’s mother, St. Helena, and her family (not to be confused with Elen Luyddog).
c. AD 388 – 440 – Eugenius ap Macsen (possibly Owain Finddu) – son of Macsen Wledig & Ceindrech ferch Rheiden – King of Mid-South Wales
A Roman general /King of Mid & South East Wales, his rule may have stretched as far as Gwynedd in support of his half brother Constantine and later in support of Cunedda. He was probably killed in battle fighting the Irish invaders; however, there is another story that links him to Dinas Emrys, near Beddgelert where he was apparently assassinated while acting as an escort to his stepmother Elen Luyddog. (There are some suggestions that Owain Finddu could have been a different person, but that version has not been fully accepted by historians).
c. AD 418-440s – Ambrosius Aurelianus (Emrys Wledig the Elder) – son of Custennin Fawr –
Some historians believe that he was the son of Constantine, which would make him also a grandson to Macsen Wledig. This would suggest that he was a possible uncle to Vortigern through his brief marriage to Severa the daughter of Macsen Wledig.
c. AD 425-450 – Vortigern Vorteneu aka Vitalinus (Gwrtheryn Gwrtheneu ap Gwidol) – A Romano-High King of Powys & all of the Britons (ruled Gloucester, Bath & parts of Gwynedd)
He was briefly married to Severa, the daughter of Macsen Wledig, an important member of the imperial family of Britain. He later married his 4th wife, the daughter of Hengist (Saxon). He may have ruled for a brief period in 218 during his marriage to Severa (prior to 425).
The Royal Dynasty of the Kingdom of Gwynedd
c. 442-455 – Cunedda ‘Wledig’ ap Edern – A Northern frontier Chieftain and commander of the Votadini from Manaw Gododdin in the Lothian region of Scotland.
He came to North Wales under the policies of either Magnus Maximus or Vortigern to defend the region from Irish invasion and established the Royal line of the Gwynedd dynasty. However, this is still debated amongst historians, although the latter proposition seems likely. It has also been suggested that he came to rule Gwynedd at an earlier period, but again, the date 422 is the most accepted by historians and scholars.
c. 455-475 – Einion ‘Yrth’ ap Cunedda – son of Cunedda ap Edern – King of Gwynedd- the seventh son of Cunedda, he inherited Gwynedd while his other brothers also inherited land including his brother Ceredig, ruler of Ceredigion, and his nephew Meirion, ruler of Meirionnydd.
c. 475-517 – Cadwallon ‘Llawhir’ ap Einion – son of Einion ap Cunedda – High King – set up a new Royal Court at Aberffraw, Anglesey
c. 517-549 – Maelgwn ‘Gwynedd’ ap Cadwallon ‘Maelgwn Hir’ – son of Cadwallon ap Einion – High King- ruled most of North Wales from his base at Deganwy and briefly at Llanrhos & Caer-Segont.
c. 549-586 – Rhun ‘Hir’ ap Maelgwn – son of Maelgwn Gwynedd – King of Gwynedd – possibly born at Caer-Segont, died in his preferred palace at Caerhun (Canovium)
c. 586-599 – Beli ap Rhun – son of Rhun ap Maelgwn – King of Gwynedd – ruled from Caerhun
c. 599-613 – Iago ap Beli – son of Beli ap Rhun – King of Gwynedd
c. 613-620 – Cadfan ap Iago – son of Iago ap Beli – High King – mainly based in Aberffraw, Anglesey
(620-627 – Gwynedd is overrun by Edwin of Northumberland)
c. 625-634 – Cadwallon ap Cadfan – son of Cadfan ap Iago – High King of the Britons – in exile 620-627
c. 634-655 – Cadfael ‘Cadomedd’ ap Cynfeddw – usurper King, seized the throne after the death of Cadwallon ap Cadfan
c. 655-682 – Cadwaladr ‘Fendigiad’ ap Cadwallon – son of Cadwallon ap Cadfan – High King of Gwynedd
c. 682-712 – Idwal ‘Iwrch’ ap Cadwaladr – son of Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon – high king of Gwynedd (due to no record of his reign, he is regarded as a probable king as he is a son and a father of kings)
c. 712-754 – Rhodri ‘Molwynog’ ab Idwal – son of Idwal ap Cadwaladr – high king of Gwynedd
c. 754-798 – Caradog ap Meirion – king of Rhos & Gwynedd, seized the throne after the death of Rhodri Molwynog
c. 798-816 – Cynan ‘Dindaethwy’ ap Rhodri – son of Rhodri Molwynog – King of Gwynedd – (Royal Court at Llanfaes)
816-825 – Hywel ap Rhodri – (probable) son of Rhodri Molwynog – King of Gwynedd – known as the last of the Cunedda male line, killed his apparent brother Cynan Dindaethwy during a battle near Llanfaes. (Some sources have suggested that he may have been the son of Caradog ap Meirion)
(A new second royal dynasty, the line of Merfyn Frych and the Royal Palace of Aberffraw)
825-844 – Merfyn ‘Frych’ ap Gwriad – son of Gwriad ap Elidyr, king of Manau – King of Gwynedd & Ynys Manau (mother – Esyllt ferch Cynan Dindaethwy)
844-878 – Rhodri ‘Mawr’ ap Merfyn – son of Merfyn ap Gwriad – King of Gwynedd, Powys & Seisyllwg
878-916 – Anarawd ap Rhodri –son of Rhodri ap Merfyn – King of Gwynedd – re-established the main Royal Court at Abrerffraw
916-942 – Idwal ‘Foel’ ap Anarawd – son of Anarawd ap Rhodri – King of Gwynedd – based at the Royal Court at Aberffraw
942-950 – Hywel ‘Dda’ ap Cadell – son of Cadell ap Rhodri – King of Deheubarth, Powys, Seisyllwg & Dyfed (Gwynedd ruled by Deheubarth) – seized the throne of Gwynedd after the death of Idwal Foel & ruled most of Wales
950-969 – Ieuaf ab Idawal ‘Foel’– son of Idwal ap Anarawd – King of Gwynedd & Powys – co-ruler with his brother Iago after reclaiming the throne of Gwynedd – later deposed & imprisoned by Iago (Royal Court at Aberffraw)
950-979 – Iago ab Idwal ‘Foel’ – son of Idwal ap Anarawd – King of Gwynedd & Powys – co-ruler with his brother Ieuaf after reclaiming the throne of Gwynedd – later deposed & imprisoned his own brother, then forced to co-rule with his nephew Hywel ap Ieuaf, until he was deposed in 979 . (Royal Court at Aberffraw)
979-985 – Hywel ‘Foel’ ap Ieuaf – son of Ieuaf ap Idwal – King of Gwynedd – co-ruled for a while with his uncle Iago ap Idwal who was deposed in 979.
985-986 – Cadwallon ap Ieuaf – son of Ieuaf ap Idwal – King of Gwynedd – ruled for a year, killed by Maredudd ap Owain
986-999 – Maredudd ap Owain ap Hywel Dda – grandson of Hywel Dda- King of Deheubarth (Gwynedd ruled by Deheubarth) – seized the throne of Gwynedd after killing Cadwallon ap Ieuaf
999-1005 – Cynan ap Hywel – son of Hywel ap Ieuaf – Prince of Gwynedd – briefly restoring the Gwynedd dynasty to the Royal Court at Aberffraw
1005-1018 – Aeddan ap Blegywryd – Prince of Gwynedd – possibly seized the throne after the death of Cynan ap Hywel
1018-1023 – Llywelyn ap Seisyll – apparent ancestor to Hywel Dda – King of Gwynedd & Deheubarth – gained the throne by defeating usurper Aeddan in battle & also his wife Angharad being the daughter of Maredudd ap Owain.
1023-1039 – Iago ab Idwal ap Meurig – great grandson of Idwal Foel – King of Gwynedd & Deheubarth – Restored the Gwynedd dynasty to the Royal Court at Aberffraw – possibly killed by Gruffydd ap Llywelyn in 1039
1039-1063 – Gruffydd ap Llywelyn – son of Llywelyn ap Seisyll – king of Gwynedd & Powys, later king of Wales – became king of Gwynedd and Powys after apparently killing Iago in Battle.
1063-1070 – Rhiwallon ap Cynfyn – half brother to Gruffydd ap Llywelyn – king of Gwynedd & Powys – installed as co-ruler by Harold Godwinson 1063 – killed in battle against the sons of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn.
1063-1075 – Bleddyn ap Cynfyn – half brother to Gruffydd ap Llywelyn – king of Gwynedd & Powys – installed as co-ruler by Harold Godwinson 1063
1075-1081- Trahaearn ap Caradog – King of Gwynedd & Deheubarth – unofficially gained the throne after the death of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn
1081-1137 – Gruffydd ap Cynan – son of Cynan ap Iago – King of Gwynedd & all Wales – as he was the grandson of Iago ab Idwal, he became a rightful ruler and again the Gwynedd dynasty was restored to the Royal Court at Aberffraw.
1137-1170 – Owain ‘Gwynedd’ ap Gruffydd – son of Gruffydd ap Cynan – King of Gwynedd & Prince of Wales – buried at Bangor Cathedral.
(1170-1195 – territorial struggle between the sons of Owain Gwynedd failed to gain full control of Gwynedd)
1170 – Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd – son of Owain ap Gruffydd – King of Gwynedd – his reign lasted less than a year as he was killed by his illegitimate half brother Dafydd ap Owain. He was also known as a ‘poet prince’.
1170-1174 – Iorwerth ‘Drwyndwn’ ap Owain –son of Owain Gwynedd – Prince of North Wales – Regarded as having some local support but excluded from power due to possible disfigurement & never gained the throne as the only rightful ruler – killed in battle at an early age. He was the father of Llywelyn the Great.
1170-1195 – Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd – son of Owain ap Gruffydd – co-ruler (usurper) Prince of Gwynedd – gained the throne after he and his other illegitimate brother killed his half brother Hywel ab Owain.
1175-1195 – Rhodri ab Owain Gwynedd – son of Owain ap Gruffydd – co-ruler (usurper) Prince of Gwynedd – gained the throne after he and his other illegitimate brother killed his half brother Hywel ab Owain.
The Princes of Gwynedd
1195-1240 – Llywelyn ap Iorwerth ‘the Great’ – grandson of Owain Gwynedd – Prince of Gwynedd, Prince of Aberffraw & Lord of Snowdon – after seizing the throne from his uncle Dafydd in 1194 and the death of Rhodri in 1195, he quickly asserted himself as the true heir to the throne of Gwynedd to become one of the most successful undisputed rulers of Wales. Married Joan, daughter of King John of England
1240-1246 – Dafydd ap Llywelyn – son of Llywelyn ap Iorwreth – Prince of Wales – claimed the title ‘Prince of Wales’ claiming himself the sole heir to the throne of Gwynedd and the Principality of Wales.
1246-1282 – Llywelyn ap Gruffydd ‘Llywelyn the Last’– son of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn Fawr – Prince of Wales – Also known in Welsh as Llywelyn Ein Llyw Olaf – He was the grandson of Llywelyn the Great from his first marriage. Known as the last Prince of Wales, after renewing his rebellion against Edward I of England in 1282, he was killed in a skirmish near Builth Wells.
1282-1283 – Dafydd ap Gruffydd – son of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn Fawr – Prince of Wales – brother to Llywelyn the Last. He continued the hopes for Welsh resistance for only a few months until his execution in 1283 by King Edward I of England. Regarded by the Welsh as the last true Prince of Wales
(All of Wales was ruled by the Kings of England for over a century, with occasional resistance, until the culmination of a Welsh rebellion in 1400 led by Owain Glyndŵr)
1400-1415 – Owain Glyndŵr – a descendant of Madog ap Maredydd and other Welsh Princes – Prince of Wales (self-proclaimed)
In 1400, Owain Glyndŵr led a revolt against King Henry IV of England and rapidly gained power, successfully controlling most of Wales by 1405. He held parliaments and made treaties with his allies and foreign powers. After 1405, his hold on power gradually declined, as the English superiority improved, and by 1409, his forces and key allies were defeated in the battle at Harlech. Although he survived, he continued with his dwindling rebellion until 1412.
Nothing is known of Owain Glyndŵr after this date, although there were rumours that he died in 1415.